The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe may be a sequel to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, but it is not necessary to read one before the other. While there are references to Deliverance and her book throughout The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs, Ms. Howe provides all the background you need to understand Connie’s story. I say this with confidence because I did not read the first one but thoroughly enjoyed its sequel.
For any reader who is not in academia, Connie’s story about her teaching and the pressures to obtain tenure and publish her book are fascinating. At least, I thought they were because they are so far removed from the corporate world, where increasing sales and lowering costs are the driving forces of any decision-making. The world of academia appears just as cutthroat but more nebulous, wherein your success or failure hinges not on the company’s performance but on your own ability to put up with the constant research and competition. I appreciate this insight into a world that never interested me for my own personal goals but remains such a large part of our educational system.
The other half of Connie’s story, the witchy one, is downright fun. I love a good witchcraft story, especially one where almost all of the characters maintain that belief in witchcraft has merit given its influence in our society and the fact that such belief continues in our highly logical, scientifically-minded world. Her urgency to save Sam from the family curse does remind me of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, but that is where the similarities end. The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs has more gravitas to it, surrounding its tale of magic with scholarly insight that makes the story that much more believable.
While The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs has its moments of darkness, the story as a whole is an entertaining one. Ms. Howe’s approach to the idea of witchcraft, as well as the practice of it, lends credence to its possibility. At the same time, Connie’s desperation to save her partner and uncover more of her past in order to do so makes you understand the scholar’s excitement about research, that thrill of finding something no one else did, of making connections that have the possibility to change someone’s life, of physically touching the past in a way that most people will never be able to do. It is almost enough to change my mind about getting a doctorate. Almost being the operative word.